Most dogs love the car, especially if it means spending extra time with you. Whether it’s a quick trip to the store or a week-long road trip, it’s important to keep your dog – and you – as safe as possible at all times. Safety restraints, either in the form of a seat belt or crate, make good sense, but only if they actually work. And if you’re in the market for a new vehicle, think about what it offers in terms of dog-friendly features. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Seats that fold down flat – SUVs are wonderful if you use a crate in your car, but you will need back seats that fold down completely so the floor is level.
Vehicle height – Look for a vehicle that’s closer to the ground. This makes it much easier for your medium or bigger-sized dog to jump in and out.
Additional safety features – Vehicles with perimeter sensors help you steer clear of other cars that may be in your blind spot. Some vehicles, like the Forester shown here, offer packages that feature automatic rear braking, should you be in danger of hitting something while backing up. That’s an added bonus when you’re carrying precious cargo in the back.
Power lift gate – These are very handy when you have a leash in one hand and packages in the other.
Good ventilation – Like young children, dogs should never travel in the front seat. So a car with rear ventilation is very important, especially in summer when dogs need to stay cool.
Awards and ratings – Look for a vehicle that has earned a reputation for safety. A number of awards are well recognized in the industry, including those from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which rates vehicles based on five crashworthiness tests, as well as front crash tests.
Tinted windows – Dogs feel the heat more than we do, so consider tinted back windows to help block out the sun. A car can be 60% cooler with tinted windows. And they filter out harmful UV rays, too!
Anchors in the floor – Perfect for holding crates in place, D rings can also be used to temporarily anchor your dog’s leash if necessary.
The Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a registered non-profit research and advocacy organization based in the Washington, DC, mirrors the same crash tests used for child safety products to measure the effectiveness of companion animal products. In 2013, CPS teamed up with Subaru to perform crash tests on a number of pet restraints. Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness distinguished itself as the Top Performing Harness. It was the only harness that consistently prevented the specially designed “crash test dogs” from launching off the car seat.
Testing was performed using multiple crash test dogs developed by CPS, including a simulated 25 lb Terrier mix, a 45 lb Border Collie and a 75 lb Golden Retriever. centerforpetsafety.org.